On February 8, the Church commemorates the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a Canossian Daughter of Charity who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan.
Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869, in a small village in the Darfur region of Sudan. She was kidnapped while working in the fields with her family and subsequently sold into slavery. Her captors asked for her name but she was too terrified to remember so they named her “Bakhita,” which means “fortunate” in Arabic.
Bakhita endured many tortures at the hands of her owners. She bore her suffering valiantly though she did not know Christ or the redemptive nature of suffering. After being sold a total of five times, Bakhita was purchased by Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Two years later, at her request, he took Bakhita to Italy to work as a nanny for his colleague, Augusto Michieli. He, in turn, sent Bakhita to accompany his daughter, with whom she had become friends, to a school in Venice run by the Canossian Sisters.
Bakhita felt called to learn more about the Church, and was baptized with the name “Josephine Margaret.” In the meantime, Michieli wanted to take Josephine and his daughter back to Sudan, but Josephine chose to remain in the catechumenate.
Josephine felt called to religious life and decided to enter the Canossia community in 1893. She made her profession in 1896 and was sent to Northern Italy, where she dedicated her life to assisting her community and teaching others to love God.
She was known for her smile, gentleness, and holiness. She even went on record saying, “If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and a religious today.”
St. Josephine was beatified in 1992 and canonized shortly after on October 2000 by Pope John Paul II. She is the first person to be canonized from Sudan and is the patron saint of the country.
Above: Icon of St. Josephine Bakhita written by Benedictine Br. Claude Lane,
published by the Catholic Sentinel Mobile.
Above right: Image of Saint Bakhita from Wikipedia.
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau
Sister Paule Pierre Barbeau is a novice at Saint Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from Quebec, Canada, she lived in the Southeastern United States for 16 years before coming to Duluth. She did research in the field of exercise physiology for over years, and more recently completed a graduate degree in theology, while volunteering in parishes, giving workshops and retreats.